Facts About Fake Election Advertising

As national elections in Britain are only a few weeks away, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has found over 8,000 adverts featuring false information about politicians on Facebook. 

TBIJ is a nonprofit news organisation based in London that  pursues "public interest" investigations. Their research has identified thousands of scam adverts featuring AI-manipulated videos and false information about politicians have been circulating on Facebook in recent months. 

Some of these link to websites which emulate legitimate newspaper articles promoting dubious investment platforms, in many cases seeking to collect personal data .The adverts investigated include AI-manipulated videos and images, with one falsely alleging that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) had been involved in a banking scandal.   

AI-powered tools can generate new text, images, video, and speech from a single prompt to weave into campaign messages. Political campaigns are already using these tools to create messages 

While deepfakes are evolving fast, they are not without flaws. With a discerning eye, it’s often possible to identify falsified video, photos or audio recordings of politicians. Other fake articles were accompanied by manipulated images of politicians being arrested or lying injured in hospital. Users clicking through would then be taken to cloned pages replicating the websites of well-known media outlets.

The stories, sometimes unrelated to the original advert, often featured fake quotes from a public figure detailing how they had made a fortune from a new investment platform.

TBIJ used Meta’s advertisement library, a public database, to examine Facebook ads featuring 20 prominent European politicians that had been published over the past five months. The politicians were chosen after TBIJ found them to be featured in scam adverts. They included leader of the French National Rally party Marine Le Pen, co-chair of Germany’s AfD party Alice Weideland German Green Part Minister for foreign affairs, Annalena Baerbock. Others investigated were Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister Xavier Bettel and former Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė.

TBIJ identified more than 10,000 ads that were in breach of a transparency rule put in place by Meta that states ads featuring or mentioning political figures must be labelled as political. The onus is on the user posting the ads to label them appropriately. The ease with which they appear to have evaded the platform’s rules raises concerns about the ability of Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to control misinformation in advance of major elections across Europe.

Considering that so many ads featuring these politicians were found to have made it unchallenged through Meta’s systems, the total number of these types of posts in circulation could be much higher. 

Dubious websites can be reported to the British National Cyber Security Centre via the link below, whilst suspicious adverts on Facebook can be reported by selecting the three dots in the top right corner and pressing 'report.'

TBIJ   |   Which   |    Govtech   |    BBC   |    YouTube   |     Brennan Centre     |   NCSC   

Image: Ideogram

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